- Sustainability Planning and Collaboration in Rural Canada: Taking the Next Steps ed. by Lars Hallstrom et al.
This book is an excellent compilation of research on rural sustainability issues in Canada, covering a number of topics by university researchers and rural communities working closely together. It is an outgrowth of a 2010 "Taking the Next Steps" conference organized by the Alberta Center for Sustainable Rural Communities held in a rural city north of Edmonton. Participants in the conference represented a rural community as well as the research community. The book is an assemblage with great emphasis on academic details, but the reader will find some very interesting rural stories within it. I applaud the Center for Great Plains Studies for reaching across the border to promote this important book.
The rural issues the contributors discuss all involve public engagement with academics and rural citizens working together, covering a wide range of issues, from Aboriginal communities to land use regarding conversion of farmland, to economic impacts of rural population loss and aging, and the meanings of sustainability. The book describes "real places and real challenges" (352) throughout Canada. The last chapter, by Roger Epp, a political science professor, is a very good summary of the book as well as an outline of rural complexities in Canada.
I grew up in northwest Minnesota on the edge of the Great Plains, in a subregion sharing the Red River watershed that flows north into Canada, impacting urban and rural areas on both sides of the border. As a practicing architect and founder/director of the Center for Rural Design at the University of Minnesota, my world travels and experiences created a passion to bring design as a problem-solving process and design thinking to rural issues, linking urban and rural futures together. For the past 20 years I have researched problems impacting both urban and rural people in Minnesota and worldwide. The connections between urban and rural are most critical because you cannot successfully resolve rural issues with also dealing with urban issues and vice versa.
As good as this book is, it reflects traditional academic thinking, researching, and discussing issues in publications separately rather than crossing borders and seeking connections between. The academy must transform [End Page 144] itself to become more relevant. The lack of any reference to design and design thinking or any connections between urban and rural in dealing with and developing solutions for the future of rural Canada attests to my concern. With the potential of another 2.5 billion people on the planet by 2050, it is critical that global impacts of climate change, food security, renewable energy, water resources, environmental resiliency, and wellness (human, animal, and environmental) be looked at as an integrated rural and urban problem that must be resolved together—locally and globally simultaneously. Together we must find ways to shape land uses today so that future generations can also shape theirs. After all, Earth is the place we all call home.